Health and the environment must go together to produce a healthy citizenry in order to ensure the country and the world as well will have a sustainable future, as environmental degradation remains a huge threat that cause many deaths, according to a medical doctor and cultural anthropologist.

“The environment needs to be healthy. Without a healthy environment, there would be no healthy people,”  Dr. Gideon Lasco said during a webinar on the launching of the Healthy Pilipinas web site on October 26.

Lasco, also a medical anthropologist, pointed out that it is important for the country to put premium both on the environment and health as it continues to grapple with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added that environmental degradation will also cause deaths, especially among the poor, the children, people with disabilities and the immigrants. 

“Filipinos need health information that is accurate, accessible and culturally contextualized. Healthy Pilipinas is a platform that can cater to this need. This launch is just the beginning, and I hope we can collaborate with institutions and individuals within and beyond the public-health community to realize the web site’s full potential,” added Lasco, also a consultant of the Healthy Pilipinas editorial team.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it is of paramount importance for countries to invest in environmental sustainability because this can serve as an insurance for health and human well-being.

“The degradation of the environment—the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the ecosystems which sustain us—is estimated to be responsible for at least a quarter of the global total burden of disease,” the UNEP said in its latest report titled, “Healthy Environment, Healthy People.”

Furthermore, the UNEP pointed out that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) articulate the universal understanding that a healthy environment is essential to the full enjoyment of basic human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation and quality of life.

Dr. Beverly Lorraine Ho, Director IV of the Health Promotion Bureau and Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, said the vision of the web site is to become a “unified data platform for health promotion” for the Filipino digital public, backed by the guiding principles of accuracy, inclusivity, collaboration, responsiveness, and user-friendliness.”

Internet use, Ho said, continues to be one of the biggest pastimes in the country, which underscores the need to reach Filipinos online in a world becoming more and more digital.

 Ho added that the Healthy Pilipinas web site will be aligned with existing and future Department of Health (DOH) efforts.

One section featured is the Seven Healthy Habits campaign that teaches the public different health-promoting actions and behaviors. It is also linked to the Covid-19 and ResBakuna campaign pages of the main DOH web site for unified messaging and information regarding the pandemic and vaccination efforts.

 “There is a need to provide timely and accurate health information, especially now, not just because of the pandemic, but because it is too easy to be misinformed on social media,” Ho explained. “The Healthy Pilipinas web site will be a credible source that you can turn to. I envision this endeavor to reach even more Filipinos as it expands and becomes part of our everyday life.”

The web site will also leverage social media to allow the sharing of long-form articles on existing platforms like the Healthy Pilipinas Facebook page, DOH Twitter account and DOH Viber community among others.

 Ho noted that the web site will also enable supportive environments for health promotion. This would include tips, articles and downloadable materials for local implementers

 “PHAP [Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines] is honored to collaborate with the [DOH] in its efforts to provide the Filipino people with verified information and slow the spread of misinformation,” PHAP Executive Director Teodoro Padilla.

He said that health misinformation is a serious threat to public health as it can cause confusion, harm people’s health and undermine public health efforts.

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